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The Difficulty of Creating Tradition

Back in 2007 when the FAU football team was selected to face Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl, Athletics Director Craig Angelos was surprised to find a short line of excited fans waiting outside of the Oxley to buy tickets to the game. "Looks like we have a new tradition forming," he quipped, a comment criticized by the media as indicative of how badly FAU wanted to establish popular traditions here in Boca Raton.

But why do people even care if we have traditions? Well, it's fun, obviously. And most people are attracted to universities with "rich heritages", even if the traditions themselves are kind of silly. Case in point: the "Rolling of Toomer's Corner" at Auburn University where, for celebratory reasons, students throw toilet paper into the branches of old oak trees. It's an event that can draw thousands of people, as seen below:

Thanks Wikipedia.
I'm not denigrating the Rolling of Toomers whatsoever because it looks like a great tradition. Seriously. This would be awesome to have at FAU (unless you were the one that had to clean it up, of course)

What I'm trying to point out is that if something like this perseveres, it can become a city-sponsored activity a hundred years after its inception. But in the beginning, in the first year, you might have to pitch something like this as, "Hey, let's throw toilet paper in trees to celebrate something cool!" while the person you're suggesting it to looks at you like you have three heads. Student Government might say, "We're not spending money on that." And then the university Administration shuts it down by arguing that it would cause a mess and who is going to pay to clean it up?

I'm not projecting there: I know a little bit about this because I sought out something similar for Homecoming a couple years back. I had suggested that we be allowed to decorate Traditions Plaza with red and blue crepe paper so that when students saw it, they'd know something special was going on. It wasn't an ode to Toomer's Corner - I'm not sure if I even knew about that at the time - but just grew naturally out of the idea of wanting to decorate as much of campus as possible. Long story short, it didn't go over well with some people who didn't understand it, didn't want to be part of it or wanted us to fund a special clean-up crew to deal with the aftermath (and I get that, I do).

That's what happens with ideas: sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Not every idea is good, even if you think it is because it's your idea.

And then there are the ideas that do get off the ground but suffer a short run before being snuffed out. That's the difficulty with most prospective traditions: somebody (SGA member, club president, etc) comes up with an idea, they get married to the idea, they run with it during their tenure and then hand off the baton to the next administration. If the next administration doesn't see the merit in it, especially if it eats into an already tight budget, a tradition can die right then and there.

For instance, there was once a "Naked Mile"/ "Underwear Run" type of event where students got together, stripped down to their undergarments and ran to the pool to jump in. The clothes they shed were then donated to charity. It was a charity event. I'm not sure how this event went the first time, if it ran into hurdles as people complained about "public indecency" or if someone slipped and fell on the way to the pool (there are always risks involved in every activity, and if the risks are reasonably accounted for we should still move forward or we'll never do anything). For one reason or another, it wasn't carried forward. And it was a great event. It's sad.

Fortunately, FAU has a number of traditions that have survived and we do have some things to beam about. From a physical standpoint, the students have fought Administration so we could keep Algonquin (as mentioned before) and the sidewalks out front of the Student Union with the political messages (like "Spiro Agnew's father should have been sterile.") It represents our history and need to be preserved.

From a behavioral/event standpoint, we have the Owl Fingers (which have been around longer than you thought), Basketball Clap (stomp stomp clap clap F-A-U woooo) and tailgating (not many schools do that, so we should build on it), the Timucua Pageant (and obviously the rest of Homecoming), the Step Show, Greek Week, the Freshmen Foam Party, the Fall Bonfire, the Sexually Responsible Bed Race and the Pumpkin Drop. Those are just the ones that come to mind. I'm sure there are more, especially when you start getting down into the individual colleges.

So don't ever let someone tell you that FAU has "no traditions", heritage, or identity... because we certainly do and over the years we'll continue to build on what we have. Understand that there may be opposition in the beginning. It may cost us money. People may not understand it. Students may not show up in the numbers you thought. And the next administration may drop it.

But every once in awhile, a spark catches just right and becomes a fire, and that fire can burn for decades. If you're a student and you have an idea, propose it. Put in the effort. You never know what could happen. 20 years from now your son or daughter could enroll as a freshmen at FAU and attend an event that was your idea.

How cool would that be?



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